It took two days to hike to the spot we’d heard about: a strange house standing alone in the middle of the woods. And if it couldn’t possibly sound any more cliche, the rumors were that the former owners of the house haunted it and killed anyone who dared to enter.
From the outside, it looked unremarkable. Had it not been in the middle of the forest with nothing around but trees and rocks, the house would’ve looked like any other run-down home in a bad area. But the fact remained: it was the only man-made structure for miles. Why, let alone how, anyone would haul construction materials through the inhospitable wilderness to build the place was beyond my or my boyfriend’s understanding.
Being journalists for the high school paper, we came armed with our notebooks and tablets. John tried to peer through the windows, but there was nothing to see. The windows were smoked out – it looked like there’d been a minor fire inside at some point.
The front door was locked, but around the back there was a rusted-out hole in the cellar door. It was just wide enough for John to fit through. No way my boobs were getting through that hole unless I did way more squashing than I was in the mood to do. No, it was okay; John would go through and open the front door for me.
After a bit of squeezing and cursing, John made his way into the cellar. Looking at the ragged, rusty metal he’d just forced himself through, I wondered when he’d last gotten a tetanus booster. With a shudder, I made my way over to the front of the house and waited for him to let me inside.
I waited. And waited. After a couple minutes, I heard John banging on the door from behind to get it open.
“It doesn’t want to move,” he shouted from the other side.
“Can you find something to break it open?,” I called back. “A crowbar or something?”
The banging stopped as he looked around. More waiting. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a doe and her fawn. I was spellbound. Growing up in the city, this had been my first trip into the woods since I was a little girl. I’d never gotten to see deer in real life.
I carefully moved in the direction of the animals, crouching low so I didn’t frighten them, and held out my hand. The ears of the deer perked up and they watched me intently, trying to determine if I was a threat. In my head, I was pleading with them to come over.
“It’s okay guys,” I whispered sweetly. “It’s okay.”
I held my breath as the fawn stepped toward me. It was so close. The mother wasn’t stopping it as it got nearer and nearer – so close that I could see my reflection in its wide, inquisitive eyes.
A massive bang sounded from behind me, making me jump and sending the deer running for their lives. “God damn it, John!,” I yelled, turning around. “You scared them aw–.”
I stopped talking and froze. The door had flown off its hinges onto the front steps. In the doorway stood a thick, bulbous, corpse-like man. He was swollen and burned, almost like he’d been soaked in gasoline for months then set on fire. And in his hand he held the severed head of John, whose eyes stared straight ahead with confused shock.
I screamed and began to run. “Stay away from our home!,” came a voice so loud and powerful it caused me to stumble and fall. I righted myself and looked over my shoulder, tears streaming down my eyes. There was another thing now – a woman – standing shoulder to shoulder with John’s murderer. Her mouth opened and she bellowed, “and don’t fucking come back!”
She lumbered down the steps and picked up the door. She carried it back up, and before she set it back in the remains of its frame, the husband took John’s head and threw in my direction. I heard it hit the ground behind me as I ran, but I never saw his face again. Never, except in my nightmares.